I am retired and take educated guesses on all things financial.

December 16, 2009

December 15, 2009: My Favorite Author, Paul Johnson

In a world of blogs, twitter, 24 hour news cycles and instant analysis, it is a welcome respite to indulge intellectual curiosity through a great book penned by a master author. My favorite author is Paul Johnson.

Paul Johnson has kept me engaged in history through a dense, yet superbly entertaining and engaging style. A one-time socialist turned realist, this 81-year old English Catholic craftsman has published books that are richly researched on a variety of topics that only a pure genius could entertain.

Known as an historian, Paul Johnson's works ranges over the millennia and practically the entire gamut of human activities. He is not a prolific author, but every few years concocts a brilliant book. I can imagine his intellectual wheels turning and a smile appear on his noble face when he decides to write. All of his books have opened my eyes to little-known facts and anecdotal situations that had a profound impact upon the subject being parsed. Even if I was not especially keen on the subject, Paul Johnson's style MADE me gain interest. I have enjoyed his monthly feature in Forbes magazine for years.

I recently finished reading his 2008 book, "Heroes". This three hundred page masterpiece visit such diverse personages as Henry V, George Washington, Emily Dickinson, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Marilyn Monroe, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. The Washington Post Book World had it right when the reviewer stated, "It is Johnson's gift that he can make his subjects human and fallible enough that we would, indeed, recognize them instantly, while also illuminating what made them heroes."

Most, if not all of Johnson's works are available in paperback. is a good source. I recommend all of his books. Here are my favorites:

A History of the American People
The Birth of the Modern Era - a lengthy, colorful look at the world from 1800-1830.
Intellectuals - my favorite, which strips the veneer from history's most self-righteous leftists.
Modern Times - the 20th century
A History Of Christianity - written in the mid-1970s, this is his most detailed, dense and solemn book.
Napoleon - a pocket biography
Washington - a pocket biography
Art: A New History - absolutely fascinating read on a subject that had little interest to me, until I read the book.

There are others, and I hope Johnson continues to write as long as he as able.

Paul Johnson has stepped into criticism for some of his views and stands, but that makes his works even more interesting, as he backs up with facts everything he presents, oftentimes with the best English wit. He has made some enemies along the way.

His comment on history: "The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance.

Read Paul Johnson, and be entertained and informed.

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